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Buddhadharma : Winter 2015
winter 2015 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly 75 revieWs layers of religion imposed upon it by his successors. Indeed, Batchelor pays more attention here to locating the historical Buddha and distilling his basic message than to analyzing contemporary culture, so the book might better be titled Before Buddhism. In seeking to recover the original dharma and its founder, Batchelor acknowledges that his perspective has been shaped by liberal Christianity’s search for a human Jesus, Protestant- ism’s anticlerical stance, and european philosophy’s tragic yet cautiously hope- ful view of human life. He admits, there- fore, the need “to be constantly alert to the danger faced by every interpreter ... of unconsciously imposing my own views on an ancient text and claiming that they were there all along.” He rec- ognizes, too, that his main source, the Pali canon, “is a vast collage of conflict- ing texts” that contains many different “voices,” of which he identifies six: poetic, dramatic, skeptical, pragmatic, dogmatic, and mythic. The multiplicity of the canon leaves us with the obvious question: “How are we to distinguish between what is likely to have been the Buddha’s word as opposed to a well- intentioned ‘clarification’ by a later edi- tor or commentator?” For Batchelor, the answer is that we must locate the elements in Gotama’s teaching that “stand out as most distinc- tive and original... and to bracket off anything attributed to [him] that could just as well have been said by another wanderer, Jain monk, or Brahmin priest of the same period.” What thus must be laid aside is any metaphysical claim regarding past or future lives or the transcendental nature of liberation, which were common in Gotama’s day. What is left are two main voices (the skeptical and the pragmatic) and four central ideas: the principle of condition- ality, the practice of the fourfold task (a version of the four noble truths), the perspective of mindful awareness, and the power of self-reliance. These, Batch- elor claims, were the keys to the dharma before there was Buddhism, as they are in our own “post-credal age.” The book is structured in a back-and- forth manner, with chapters on major themes (“After Buddhism,” “A Fourfold Task,” “Letting Go of Truth,” “experi- ence,” “The everyday Sublime,” and “A Culture of Awakening”) alternating with those featuring early followers of the Buddha (“Mahanama: The Convert,” “Pasenadi: The King,” “Sunakkhata: The Traitor,” “Jivaka: The Doctor,” and “Ananda: The Attendant”). It also includes an afterword on the Western encounter with Buddhism and Batch- elor’s own translations of important passages from the Pali canon. The “biographical” chapters focus not on “the serene perfection of the arahant,” which interests Batchelor For more information, please visit us at zenstudies.org DAI BOSATSU ZENDO KONGO-JI On the banks of the highest lake in the Catskills, on 1400 acres of pristine forest, Dai Bosatsu Zendo offers an inspiring setting for true Zen practice. Lay and monastic residential training, including sesshin, teisho, dokusan, and koan work; work exchange programs; Intro to Zen weekends, yoga and other retreats. NEW YORK ZENDO SHOBO-JI An oasis of deep stillness in the heart of Manhattan offering an array of practice opportunities. Daily zazen and chanting services; all-day sittings, weekend sesshins, Dharma talks and interviews; weekly Intro to Zen evenings and tai chi classes. Shinge Roko Sherry Chayat Roshi | Abbot the zen studies society Traditional Rinzai Form Contemporary Expression